Are you often convincing yourself that you’re experiencing a setback? Or maybe you’re questioning whether or not you’ve experienced a setback. Or maybe you’re afraid of experiencing a setback.
Drew Linsalata is an author and the creator and host of The Anxious Truth podcast. He struggled with anxiety, panic disorder, agoraphobia, and depression several times over a 20 year period and has been recovered for over a decade. From his personal experience, along with helping others to recover, Drew has lots of knowledge and wisdom to share when it comes to the anxiety recovery journey and setbacks.
If you’re wondering things like… What is a setback? What are some things that can lead to a setback? What do I do if I’m experiencing a setback? What can I do to prevent setbacks? This is the episode for you!
SETBACKS: WHAT IS A SETBACK?
Let’s start by talking about what a setback isn’t! Drew says, “A setback has nothing to do with how you feel. A setback is a change in how you deal with how you feel.” Which is so spot on! It simply means that maybe you’ve fallen back into old habits, like old reactionary habits, or you’re under stress, or you’re being a little lazy and forget what the healthy action is to take (which is quite okay and totally a human thing!).
Simply put, a setback is going back to the way we used to respond to the anxiety and panic. It’s falling back into a habit that isn't healthy or helpful, and ultimately won’t support your recovery.
BUT I’M FEELING MORE… ISN’T THIS A SETBACK?
The reality is, you feel more when you're working to heal. You feel more anticipatory anxiety, more sensations, symptoms, more fear. But this is because you’re pushing back against unhealthy pathways and you’re working to create new ones. You’re feeling more because you’re allowing yourself to feel the hard stuff and you’re doing the work.
You might have moments where you think… Last week I did this no problem but now I’m experiencing panic. I thought I was past this point!
But experiencing panic is the point!
The feelings just mean that you’re doing the thing and moving towards the fear. The feelings are the point of recovery. The feelings mean you’re pushing past the fear. It’s important to expect to feel anxious.
And sometimes our ability to tolerate the feelings drops a little. But a lack of tolerance doesn’t equal a setback.
WHAT CAN LEAD TO A SETBACK?
Something that can lead to a setback is incorrect or unrealistic expectations. We all want to feel better right now. But as Drew says, “feeling better is a happy side effect of learning to have a new relationship with your feelings.” And this takes time and practice. It’s a journey.
When facing the hard stuff, it’s important not to tell yourself things like, I’m not going to experience anxiety. This is something that both me and Drew did in our early recovery days, and it’s such an unrealistic expectation that will ultimately set you up for failure.
Some other things that can lead to a setback… Stress, not sleeping enough, relationship issues, beating yourself up, and a big one, avoidance!
Avoidance… Whether you’re avoiding stuff altogether, or practicing avoidant habits (meaning you’re resisting how you’re feeling), will reinforce the anxiety because you’re telling yourself that it’s not okay to feel.
Avoidance can also make you feel a sense of relief and comfort, but it reinforces the idea that the thing you’re facing is dangerous and not safe. It’s important not to choose short-term comfort over long-term healing.
FACING THE FEELINGS AND DISCOMFORT
Drew talks about how he got to the “enough is enough” point. The “I will not go back there” point. At one point in his recovery journey he made a declaration. He said to himself, “If you’re going to kill me then kill me, I’m not doing it this way anymore.” Drew knew what he had to do. Speaking to experiencing the symptoms like a racing heart beat… Drew says, “This is the ten thousandth time with this, what do you want to do with it on the tenth thousand and first?”
So what did he do? He challenged himself and reminded himself of his realities. He trusted his experience, knowing that he had faced the feelings many times and had always come out the other side. He willingly faced the discomfort and made the decision that he wasn’t going to continue to take the same path he always had.
I also talk about how I reached my breaking point and how I made the choice to recover. I know that it doesn’t feel like you have a choice when it comes to anxiety recovery, but you do.
Drew reached his turning point defiantly, while I reached mine in a more emotional way, but we all arrive at a point where we have to make a choice. The hard choice that ultimately leads to lots of healing.
WHAT DO I DO WHEN I EXPERIENCE A SETBACK?
Drew says, “You’re going to declare a setback when you shouldn't and that’s okay.” It’s important to see the hard moments as a test of your skills. And ask yourself, What do I want to do? How do I want to handle this?
After experiencing a tough moment, you might find yourself wondering… Should I go back and try it again right now? Should I wait and try again tomorrow? Should I push further than I did yesterday? Should I go back to where I experienced panic before?
To which Drew says, “Everything is okay! Do it!”
Take the time to feel what you feel and then take healthy action!
I’M AFRAID TO EXPERIENCE A SETBACK
Drew says, “It’s okay to be afraid of experiencing a setback, just try not to act on that fear. Don’t let it drag you into a setback.”
Recovery can often feel so fragile, especially in the beginning. But just because you feel vulnerable and fragile and like you’re hanging on by a thread doesn’t mean that it’s true. Experience will show you that your recovery isn’t as fragile as you think it is.
ONE POWERFUL TRUTH FROM DREW & SHANNON
Drew - “I know it seems unthinkable to go directly at this thing, but I promise that really is the way.”
Shannon - “Just because you can’t imagine that you’re capable of something, or that recovery is possible, doesn’t mean that it’s not possible.”
WHERE TO FIND DREW
Books, podcast, all the things: www.theanxioustruth.com
On Instagram: @theanxioustruth
For all of the knowledge, tips, tools, and truths, make sure to listen to the full episode!